New Year’s Resolutions for Your Mental Game
This is the time of year when many people write resolutions that represent how they would like to change or improve in the new year. Water polo players usually make these changes after or before a season. Even though we have these great mental starting points each season, the athletes who are always looking to build through every moment are the ones who will find the biggest gains in the pool. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are always looking to call yourself or your team out when there is a mistake. You want to find ways to continue to build on your past best performance by reflecting on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what you will improve the next opportunity in the pool. Looking for what you do well also helps you build confidence and learn the circumstances in which you play your best.
As you are learning from your past and developing a deeper level of self-awareness, you can start to plan for the future by writing down clear action-oriented goals that focus on the process rather than the outcome. You can even set small goals for each training session and/or game. For example: “in today’s practice, I will use the focus cue word legs to remind myself before every pass, shot, and defensive play that I need to start with legs first”. This type of planning and goal setting gives you something specific to learn from and evaluate on after your performance.
Once you have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish, then you will learn to trust your plan and perform while in the present moment. Performing in the present moment is the key to playing your best water polo. So often, athletes get caught up in aspects of the game outside of their control, such as the crowd or the way the referee is calling the game. There are also tendencies to ruminate over past missed shots or defensive miscues. If you get caught up in this negative downward spiraling self-talk, it may take you two or three counter attacks to get your mind back in the game. By then it may be too late. It’s important to practice letting go of self-judgment and emotional attachment to items outside of your control in order to practice a present focused mindset. You will find more enjoyment in the game and your play will consistently be at a higher level.
So for 2016, I challenge you to take 30 minutes per day out of the pool to follow the learn, plan, and perform framework. Start a journal and take the time to learn from the past, plan for the future, and prepare to perform in the present.
Happy New Year!
If you are interested in one on one mental skills coaching or for your team, you can contact Brian Alexander via email: Alexander.firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.athletementalskillscoach.com Also follow him on Twitter @BA_POS_MIND on Facebook (Athlete Mental Skills Coach) or follow his biweekly blog post on LinkedIn.